Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variation in living organisms, viewed within a given habitat, ecosystem or in the world as a whole. The concept is usually applied to the species diversity, although the notion of genetic biodiversity is applied to the variation in genes within an individual species. While most people think of rainforests as loci of great biodiversity, biomes such as oceans and grasslands are the likely repositories for even greater variation. Retention of diverse biota is important, since intact ecosystems are thought to be essential for provision of ecosystem services to humans, including maintenance of a diverse foodbank, pollination, clean water, flood control, pest control, waste decomposition, biomass energy resources and climate stability. Biodiversity is presently critical since we live in the era of the Mass Holocene Extinction, a period of species loss caused by man, and unrivaled in rate of species loss. Although the number of total species numbers in the tens of millions, most have not yet even been described. The extinction of a species is almost always related to destruction of habitat or man-made pollution.

  • Coral reefs (collection) Featured Article Coral reefs (collection) Coral reefs (collection)

    Coral reefs are one of the most diverse, complex, aesthetically appealing and threatened ecosystems on earth. This collection will include information on a wide range of topics... More »

  • Crustacea Featured Article Crustacea Crustacea

    Crustaceans are invertebrates belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and include such familiar groups as barnacles, crabs, crayfish, lobster, water fleas and pill bugs. Crustaceans... More »

  • Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Featured Article Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Ecoregions of Utah (EPA)

    The Ecoregions of Utah comprise a diverse set of plant communities and geomorphic provinces. Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type,... More »

  • Habitat fragmentation Featured Article Habitat fragmentation Habitat fragmentation

    Habitat fragmentation involves alteration of habitat resulting in spatial separation of habitat units from a previous state of greater... More »

  • Virus Featured Article Virus Virus

    A virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only inside the cells of a host organism. Most viruses are so tiny they are only observable with at least a conventional... More »

  • South China Sea Featured Article South China Sea South China Sea

      The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of... More »

  • Devonian Featured Article Devonian Devonian

    The Devonian period is a geologic time interval within the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, aapproximately 417 million years before present (BP), to... More »

  • Spinner dolphin Featured Article Spinner dolphin Spinner dolphin

    The Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), a marine mammal in the family of oceanic dolphins,  gets its name from the spinning behavior it shows when it leaps out of... More »

  • Permian Featured Article Permian Permian

    The Permian period lasted from 290 to 248 million years ago and was the last period of the Paleozoic Era. The distinction between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic is made at the... More »

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Cactaceae: The cactus family Last Updated on 2015-03-06 11:23:17 The Cactaceae is a family belonging to the order Caryophyllales.  Cacti typically are found in  dry and arid desert or semi-desert regions  with high average daytime temperatures and cold nights, and high evaporation rates.  Cacti range from Canada to Argentina, predominantly occurring in the warm and arid reaches of the continents of both North and South America across a wide range of different habitats like deserts, sandy coastal stretches, scrublands, dry deciduous forests, high alpine steppes and tropical rain forests (Barthlott and Hunt, 1993; Gibson and Nobel, 1986; Nyffeler, 2001). The main diversity centers are Mexico and south-west USA, central Andes, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina with Mexico being the richest and most endemic region (Boyle and Anderson, 2002; Ortega-Baes and Godínez-Alvarez, 2006). The family is... More »
Willamette Valley forests Last Updated on 2015-03-04 20:55:59 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Willamette Valley forests ecoregion is an element of the Temperate Broadleaf  and Mixed forests biome in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. Once a prairie supporting oak stands and groves of Douglas-fir and other trees, cultivation and development have destroyed nearly all of the natural habitat in the Willamette Valley. Just one-tenth of one percent of the valley’s native grasslands and oak savannas remains. Fire shaped the Willamette Valley, as it did most of the northwest grassland and savanna communities. Possibly dating back to the Pleistocene era, periodic burning by Native Americans created ideal conditions for native perennial grasses. More recent fire suppression activities–with the concurrent spread of agriculture and development–have contributed enormously to the... More »
Marine biodiversity and food security Last Updated on 2015-02-28 19:05:44 Harvesting of wild fish and shellfish from the oceans provides food to the earth’s population, particularly in the developing world, and is a major contributor to the world economy. In the USA alone, fishing supports an industry worth nearly $50 billion annually. Although fishing commenced very early in human history, it was during the 20th century that its reach and impact spread around the globe and into deep waters, first with the advent of motorized vessels near the turn of the century, and later as a result of widespread availability of cheap oil, refrigeration, and increasingly effective technology. These developments made fishing an intensive global industry, particularly after Word War II. Modern fisheries, including both landings and by-catch, currently consume 24-35% of global marine primary production in the continental shelf and major upwelling areas,... More »
Central and Southern Cascades forests Last Updated on 2015-02-21 19:00:03 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Central and Southern Cascades forests span several physiographic provinces in Washington and Oregon, including the southern Cascades, the Western Cascades, and the High Cascades, all within the USA. This ecoregion extends from Snoqualmie Pass in Washington to slightly north of the California border. The region is characterized by accordant ridge crests separated by steep, deeply dissected valleys, strongly influenced by historic and recent volcanic events (e.g. Mount Saint Helens). Ridge elevations in the northern section are as high as 2000 meters (m) with three dormant volcanoes ranging from 2550 m (Mount Saint Helens) to 4392 m (Mount Rainier). The stratigraphy dates to Precambrian-Cenozoic epochs. Pleistocene glacial activity has been widespread, creating numerous lakes and mountain valleys. However,... More »
Puget lowland forests Last Updated on 2015-02-14 17:58:34 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Puget lowland forests occupy a north-south topographic depression between the Olympic Peninsula and western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, extending from north of the Canadian border to the lower Columbia River along the Oregon border. The portion of this forest ecoregion within British Columbia includes the Fraser Valley lowlands, the coastal lowlands locally known as the Sunshine Coast and several of the Gulf Islands. This ecoregion is within the Nearctic Realm and classified as part of the Temperate Coniferous Forests biome. This ecoregion is distinct from the mountainous hydro-riparian systems to the west, as well as the drier areas to the north and east. The Puget Sound Valley is a topographically depressed previously glaciated area consisting of moderately dissected tableland covered by glacial till,... More »